Icons of Rwanda and Tanzania Safari: Gorillas, Serengeti, Ngorongoro

A 9 day trip to Rwanda & Tanzania 
5 out of 5 stars
9 reviews

Begin with gorilla trekking in Rwanda and then journey to Tanzania’s Serengeti and Ngorongoro to experience three of the world’s most astonishing travel destinations. This 9-day safari to Rwanda and Tanzania is the best of the best for an intimate and immersive journey through the icons of East Africa. Trek to the world’s largest primates, follow the zebra and wildebeest across the Serengeti plains and then marvel at the wildlife of Ngorongoro Crater. You will experience a full nine days of remarkable encounters that will range from big cats on a hunt to the gorillas who will willingly meet your gaze. As you consider gorilla trekking in Rwanda, consider reading some of our other itineraries as you perfect your own journey.

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Kigali, Volcanoes National Park, National Genocide Memorial, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Ngorongoro Crater, Kilimanjaro

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Kigali to Volcanoes National Park – Across the Land of the 1000 Hills

First impressions always linger, and there are few better introductions to Africa than Rwanda as it marries the predicted colors and vibrancy but has an unexpected contemporary infrastructure. Boulevards are broad and clean, plastic bags are illegal, and you will be immediately taken in by the enthusiasm of the country. This is not a nation that looks backward; rather it is one that has pieced together a bright future full of energy, charm, and smiles. You will land at Kigali International Airport and be greeted by a local guide and driver. Begin with a stop in the capital city for lunch, and then make the two-hour journey by road to Volcanoes National Park with the opportunity to visit traditional villages while on route. Rwanda will surprise you as a small country that abounds with rolling green hills that are hidden deep within the heart of Africa. You will cross the hills and settle into your luxury lodge to spend the evening overlooking the thick forests of Volcanoes National Park.  Browsing reviews for Rwanda luxury tours will give you some ideas of what to anticipate, so consider reading those left by our other travelers to Rwanda.

What’s Included: accommodation, airport transfer, tour, lunch, dinner

Day 2: Volcanoes National Park – Trekking With the Gorillas

On a gorilla trek, you will not just see the gorillas. The gorillas will see you. They may be habituated to human contact, but they are still completely wild and will carefully analyze every visitor they receive. One or two gorillas will provide a greeting, often waving their arms in a show of power, a firm notion that you must respect the troop’s boundaries. Deep-set black eyes stare directly at you and inspect you with a certain curiosity. Other gorillas become visible, particularly younger members of the troop. They will climb in the trees on all sides of you, sometimes crashing amongst the branches directly above your head. Gradually they will accept your presence, but the first moments are really special as you sense the silent communication that happens between yourself and the gorillas.

It is an exhilarating trek to reach them, and you will slice through a jumbled forest and follow trails created by forest elephants and the gorillas themselves. No vehicles could ever penetrate here, and the trek is a major part of the experience, a rare chance to walk in the mostly unexplored equatorial rainforest. Trackers walk ahead of you and radio in the troop’s location. It is not uncommon to meet elephants on the trail, and there is an almost eery atmosphere beneath the canopy. Locate the gorillas, and you can approach to within seven meters, a distance that is sometimes reduced when the gorillas take a few steps towards you. Along with your guide, you can settle in and savor the experience, spending an entire hour with the world’s largest primates.

Eyes dance with emotion, and you can almost read the mood from a single glance. Mouths are expressive as if the gorillas are talking without uttering a sound. Sometimes they frown, perhaps from being unable to open a seed, or struggling to work out how to climb a particular tree. Sometimes their faces express pure joy and beam in the gloomy light within the forest. The gorillas forage and feed, nurture their young and slip into old age gracefully. You will watch it all and come to understand the intricacies of their behavior as you marvel at just how close you can get. Walk out of the forest and spend the rest of the day relaxing at the lodge as you gaze out over the forest of the primates.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Volcanoes National Park to Kigali – Memoirs to the Genocide and Inspiration for Africa’s Future

You would be forgiven for thinking that Rwanda still reels from the horrors of genocide. After all, it was as recent as 1994 when a third of the population was murdered or left homeless. The National Genocide Memorial provides an overview of the events that triggered the genocide and then opens out onto a huge mass grave containing tens of thousands of bodies. A nearby memorial helps you understand what happened, with locals who survived the genocide narrating the story in a skeleton-strewn church. You will visit the memorials when returning to Kigali, and far from being depressing, they create a profound respect for the Rwandan people and the modern country they have recreated.

By visiting the memorials, you will quickly see how Rwanda’s message of reconciliation is one that the current world can learn from. Other potential places to visit today include the National Liberation Museum and some of the locals markets dotted around Kigali. Spend the night at an iconic five-star hotel in the city, and take your dinner on a broad verandah and sip your drinks as the sunset rolls down on the hills.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Kigali to Central Serengeti – Fly Directly Into the World-Famous Grasslands

There is a direct connection between Rwanda and the Serengeti with a light aircraft link that saves what had previously been a full day of travel. Leave Kigali in the middle of the morning, and you will be on the world-famous grasslands in time for lunch, which is served at a special picnic spot overlooking the plains. Wildebeest are scattered in all directions, clusters of them coming together to form what could be one humongous herd. Zebra moves slowly, walking elegantly across the Serengeti. Elephants grace the horizon along with giraffe and a rowdy herd of buffalo. From one vantage point, there could be over 100,000 animals in your view; such is the openness of the landscape and the abundance of life.

You can spend the afternoon on a game drive to cross large swathes of the Central Serengeti to watch the battles between predator and prey commence. Lions rest on kopjes, rocky outcrops that inspired a certain Disney movie. Get closer, and you will find the whole pride draped languidly across four different rocks. Return later in the day, and the pride is more active with lionesses ambling down into the grass, casting their eyes over a straggling herd of zebra. Thomson’s gazelle skips past, their ears pointing upwards and a moment later, you will see the cheetah hiding in the grass, waiting to pounce. In the Serengeti, you will never see animals in isolation as you will always witness the interactions between species and within herds, imbuing every single moment with a sense of drama. When you stop at your luxury camp to relax, the encounters will continue as both big cats and ungulates are seen and heard from the camp verandah.

What’s Included: accommodation, international flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Central Serengeti – Endless Encounters With Big Cats and Wildebeest Herds

Wake to strange sounds as a low growl floats on the morning breeze as a male lion asserts his dominance. Head out on the game drive, and you will see why as the male is seeking to mate with a lone lioness. He is quick to growl again, ensuring the driver does not take you too close to his romantic hideout. Later on the drive, you will get much closer to the lions as four of them approach the safari vehicle to circle it with a look of curiosity before wandering onwards onto the plains. At some moments, they will be barely two meters away, looking up at you with fierce eyes. Continuing your game drive, you will see a bachelor pride where three young males show the scars of battle, their bloodied wounds infected by insects.

It would take months and months to see the vast Serengeti ecosystem, but your several days spent here gives you a good amount of time to track the herds and see big cats on a hunt. It will not just be the lions, as leopards are also found in legendary abundance here, skillfully camouflaged in the trees or in the grass. Sometimes you will find a cheetah resting, perched on a low rock or rocking to sleep in the high grass. Other times, the cheetah is moving with a long neck dipping beyond detection. Hyenas are seemingly everywhere, strange looking creatures that will give you a menacing snarl. By contrast, jackals are almost adorable in appearance as they follow the smell of fresh carcasses with zeal. You are virtually guaranteed to see all these cats on a multi-day safari in the Serengeti, and it is common to see them on the move.

What’s Included:  accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Southern Serengeti – More Epic Game Drives Across the Legendary Plains

The rumble of hoofs will wake you at sunrise with a drumbeat that echoes long across the plains. In tota, there are close to two million four-legged mammals in the Serengeti, mostly wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle. Many of these form the great wildebeest migration, an annual journey that continually takes them to different pastures. There is no wrong time to see this as the experience simply changes dependent on the month of the year. Whenever you visit the Serengeti, there will be astonishing numbers of zebra and wildebeest, seen in giant herds. So the rumble of hoofs is part of the daily experience.

Today the full-day game drive will bring you south and away from the rocks towards the flattest and most iconic area of the park. The panoramas extend to show nothing but grass, grass, grass, and the animals that feed from it. Most of the predators do not follow the migration, preferring instead to protect their home territory with only the hyenas maintaining the stamina to keep pace with the herds. The Southern Serengeti is where the wildebeest raise their calves from January to March, making it probably the easiest place in Africa for cats to get a meal. Visit during these months, and it will be a frenzied fest of hunting. Outside of these months, there is a wonderful drama as the cats must scrap for more meager resources. So any time of year brings real wildlife theater in the south of the Serengeti National Park.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Southern Serengeti to Ngorongoro Conservation Area – Follow the Elephants and Meet the Masai

Wake to zebra grazing near your tent and take in the scene as grasslands stretch out and you can see thousands of animals, including elephants and buffalo herds less than a kilometer away. The camp is surrounded by animals, which maintains your safari experience throughout day and night. There is never any interruption to your connection with nature, from the wild nighttime soundtrack that keeps you company to the buffalo grazing next to your tent.  There are few better places to wake up and eat breakfast in the whole world as the sun rises over the grasslands and the animals gallop in the distance.

Spend most of the day on a final Serengeti game drive with a picnic lunch to ensure that you get to the commanding views found in the far southeast of the park. Then keep driving across the unmarked boundary to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to visit a traditional Masai community at their boma (this local word that mixes the definition of village and family house). They are the gatekeepers of this fabulous wildlife, and you will be welcomed with a traditional dance and then invited into a home to see how they live on the plains. Before sunset, you can continue the drive for another 30 minutes and pass nomadic elephants before continuing to your luxury lodge perched on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Ngorongoro Conservation Area – A Mesmerizing Day Inside Ngorongoro Crater

Drive down beneath the mist at dawn for the best time to explore Ngorongoro Crater without the crowds. Out of the mist comes a lion pride, still looking for a meal. Hippos are out of the water, rambunctious giants that waddle with surprising speed. Majestic elephants tower meters above the safari vehicle, some of the world’s largest bulls found living in solitary here with horns that curl well over a meter in length. Buffalo stare back at you, hyenas scurry past, and a whole lake is tinged pink by flamingos. Keep driving to pass the zebra to find a pair of black rhino, bashful creatures that are only really seen early in the morning. Like the gorillas, there are only around 1,000 of them left in the wild, and you will be admiring them from just a few meters away.

Your drive will continue, and you will piece together the distinctive habitats found in the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. It will feel like the archetypal garden of Eden, flourishing, mesmerizing, packed with life. It will be the early hours when everything is most active in the crater as by midday, the sun will take over, and there will be a lazy feel to the atmosphere with many animals resting or grazing languidly. This is also when the caldera is busiest with vehicles, making it a good time for you to ascend and relax at the lodge. A relaxed final afternoon ensues, time to rest up and recount your safari experiences over the last eight days.

What’s Included:  accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Ngorongoro Crater to Kilimanjaro – Departure

A Tanzanian safari often means many early starts but this final morning is one for staying in bed and opening the curtains to see elephants and zebra as they wander past. Enjoy breakfast at your leisure, and then depart on a late-morning flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport to connect with your international departure.

What’s Included: transfer, domestic flight, breakfast


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.